Use of SBAR Tool to Improve Nurse-Physician Communications

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Christina Gresh, RN, MSN
Department of Nursing, Abington Memorial Hospital, Abington, PA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to verbalize how utilizing the SBAR tool in their communication interactions can aid in more effective communication.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to verbalize an example of how SBAR would be utilized in a communication interaction.

Use of SBAR Tool to Improve Nurse-Physician Communications 

Christina Gresh MSN, RN 

 Background:  Ineffective communication is a recurrent issue between physicians and nurses.  Research shows that 60% of sentinel events involved inadequate communications.  Ineffective communication can impact nursing practice, patient care, and overall patient outcomes.  The use of the  SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) communication tool is one way for healthcare professionals to relay information to each other when time is of the essence.    

Purpose:  The purpose of this action research study is to examine if the use of SBAR improves communications between nurses and physicians on a 56 bed medical-surgical unit in a suburban teaching hospital.    

Method:  An action research approach was utilized to educate nurses on use of the SBAR tool in their communication interactions with physicians.  After implementing SBAR, the effectiveness of the tool was evaluated by the number of Serious Safety Events (SSE) which have occurred.  A SSE is an incident that causes harm to the patient.  Using SBAR can help diminish the occurrences of SSEs.  The goal is to have 365 days without an SSE. 

Results:  The findings in this preliminary study reveal that the SBAR tool can help improve nurse-physician communications.  When SBAR is implemented in nurse-physician interactions, key information is able to be transmitted efficiently, thus reducing the chances of negative outcomes.    

 Conclusions:  Given the number of adverse events which can occur in the healthcare setting, the use of SBAR in communication interactions between nurses and physicians can help to significantly reduce negative outcomes.  Nurses need to be encouraged to continue communicating with physicians in the SBAR format in the future.  Effective communications between nurses and physicians is valuable, due to the beneficial results it generates for patients and healthcare professionals.